In an era of fierce competition and empowered consumers, companies are increasingly competing to provide the best customer experience.

Customer experience has firmly earned its place at the heart of today’s businesses. Its importance is underlined by the recent hires made by UK retail giants House of Fraser, River Island and Notonthehighstreet – just a handful of the brands who have recently added the role of Chief Customer Officer to their management teams.

And with the UK Customer Satisfaction Index published earlier this summer, customer experience has once again found itself in the headlines. The biannual study benchmarks businesses across 13 sectors, and sees organisations gunning to be crowned ‘best British company for customer service’.

Scaling the CX ladder

It’s no surprise that companies are increasingly tracking the customer experience. In an era of fierce competition and highly empowered consumers, experience today equates to ‘brand’. Improvements in the experience track through to the bottom line and ultimately customer acquisition and retention.

Driven by the CX buzz, we’ve seen a renewed focus on journey mapping. These frameworks help map the customer experience across all touchpoints, highlighting the ‘make or break’ moments – those reasons for customers to exit any given process – in the overall journey. By putting themselves in their customer’s shoes, brands walk through the steps to find potential stumbling blocks. This allows organisations to change the course of the journey to maximise customer satisfaction.

Of course, journey mapping has been used by customer experience professional for years -ever since the first customers started shopping in catalogues. But what has changed is the ability to use data at scale. The map has gone from static ordinance survey map to real-time GPS.

Today, many factors hinge on getting the journey mapping right, and at times it can feel something close to a game of snakes and ladders – with pitfalls, pain points and potential wins along the way. So what’s the best way to play, and how can companies avoid the drawbacks?

Quantifying the journey

Journey mapping needs to be more than a staff engagement tool. Businesses must treat journey mapping as a cartographer would map a landscape. Cartographers don’t just draw a pretty picture – they use coordinates, scales and signs, and measure distances, heights, angles and inclines – all of which provides invaluable information for whoever is navigating the landscape.

These measures give substance to the sketching. Without them, it’s just a story - a subjective one at that – which companies will struggle to understand.

Along each step of the journey, then, businesses must make sure to capture both customer effort and emotion. How much effort did the customer have to put in to come to this stage? And what was the customer’s state of mind throughout it: positive, neutral or negative?

To quantify the emotion factor, customer experience experts have begun using Google’s 3:1 ratio. Based on the American psychologists’ Barbara L. Friedrikson’s study that it takes three positive emotions to outweigh every negative one, the rational has become a guiding principle for Google’s Android User Experience team. It’s a technique that can also easily be applied to the customer journey, with a goal of three positive to one negative interaction for the customer experience to be judged a positive one overall. And it feels an honest representation to those of us who, as consumers, have experienced less than perfect customer service.

When mapping meets data

Although journey mapping isn’t new, the modern customer gives us an unprecedented insight into their mindset. That means that today’s journey mapping can be quantified and ultimately enhanced by smart data analytics and personalised processes. This turbo-charged, digital version of customer insight acquisition provides understanding like never before.

And in the modern data-driven world, tailored customer experience is crucial to breaking down the effort and emotion behind the journey. Although the journey has become more complex - just ask any marketing director - brands must iron out the noise in order to simplify the path.

We’re seeing this approach take root. Think of Netflix’s original series, Spotify’s playlist recommendations or Facebook’s friend suggestions: as the use of data becomes the norm, customers increasingly expect every contact with a brand to be tailored to reflect what’s known about them and their intended journey.

It’s journey mapping, but not as we know it Jim

Journey mapping is a logical process for companies wishing to improve customer satisfaction. But if it is to be more than a moral tale of which pitfalls to avoid, or an abstract fable in avoiding the big bad wolf of customer experience, it needs to be backed up by hard figures and data.

Successful journey mapping isn’t easy: it’s constant review, recalibrate and re-collect. But by creating a feedback loop that will help check and test inputs to optimise the journey, brands will be able to better identify customer markers and behaviours. And ultimately, the biggest pay-off will be knowing that a customer’s experience has changed for the better.


By Richard Elwell, VP of solution architecture at Firstsource Solutions


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